The Gridlife Touring Cup introduces sprint races for a new generation

By Staff Writer
Sep 17, 2021 | gridlife | Posted in Features | From the June 2021 issue | Never miss an article

Photography by Tara Hurlin

Story by Tara Hurlin

The Gridlife Touring Cup aims to welcome the next generation of racer: shorter contests with everyone in just a single class.

Adam Jabaay, Gridlife’s co-founder and motorsports director, reports that younger drivers have been gravitating toward GLTC because they just haven’t found a comfortable home in other venues. They like the car prep rules and family-like atmosphere, he adds, which works as a safe and nonjudgmental place to hone their skills.

Born Down Under

The Improved Production Racing Association of Australia inspired the Gridlife team to promote close racing between a wider variety of cars while allowing freedom with an open time attack-style rule set. “They’ve got old Toyotas racing against a wide range of Honda Civics, battling with RX-7s from all three generations, plus some big V8 stuff and a lot of cars I’ve never heard of,” Adam explains. “We’re thrilled with how our rule set has created a similar thing.” 

The Gridlife Touring Cup uses a horsepower-to-weight formula to create parity while welcoming all engine displacements. Competitors can run wings, tube frames and nearly all types of tires. Forced induction? Bring it.

Gridlife then uses modifiers to equalize the field. A small-bore, naturally aspirated engine with 1990cc to 3000cc, for example, doesn’t get a competition adjustment. As displacement goes up, the car receives a competition balance. 

What about flattening the dyno curve to lower the max figure while creating more area under the curve? That will also earn a competition adjustment–same with aero add-ons, race tires and twin-clutch gearboxes. It’s all spelled out in the rules. 

“The prep restrictions in all existing classes across other sanctioning bodies were a barrier for me,” Adam notes. “I could never race the car that I wanted to build without making big compromises.”

What are the top cars for GLTC? Hard to say, but it’s not unusual for the top of the field to feature the BMW 3 Series, Honda S2000, K-swapped Miatas and wishbone Hondas. 

The first step to creating these new rules: Gather experienced minds from varied backgrounds in racing. “The original rules committee organically morphed out of a longterm group chat I was in with Brad Adams, Christian Shipp, Mike Taylor, Eric Kutil and Derek Yarbrough,” Adam says. “These buddies of mine are spread across the entire country, and at the time none of them were active Gridlife participants. We sought to find the sweet-spot in-car pace on track and engineered a unique rule set which allows competitors to work with a blank canvas for their potential race cars.”

Since the first-ever Gridlife event in May 2014, the team, led by Adam and series co-founder Chris Stewart, has focused on encouraging the next generation of enthusiasts to experience on-track driving. 

[#GRIDLIFE: Founding a series.]

After years of hosting time trial and track events, Gridlife hosted its first GLTC race at Mid-Ohio in April 2019. “It even snowed the day before,” Adam reminisces. “I was stressed out for so many reasons! People could hear it in my voice during the livestream.” 

Thirty cars competed that weekend, while the largest field so far was 55 cars at last year’s GingerMan Raceway Midwest event. “We have a self-imposed limit of 25 cars per mile of race track and will be quite firm with that to uphold our standards for the quality of driving,” Adam adds. 

Four to six 15-minute sprint sessions make up a weekend of GLTC racing. “Super-quick sprint races maximize the driver’s seat time with minimal field spread for maximum fun,” says pro racer, driving instructor and Gridlife regular Tom O’Gorman. “The field’s amazing parity makes for a fun and wild experience for both the drivers and spectators alike, even for those watching online.” 

A few of Gridlife’s GLTC events sold out last season, and the team anticipates even more sellouts in 2021. By March 1, 38 drivers had already purchased the Gridlife Gold Pass ticket package, meaning lots of pre-bookings for this year’s events. 

Gas on the Right, Brake on the Left, No Bumping

“The GLTC rulebook puts a true emphasis on zero contact,” Tom O’Gorman adds. “The series has the lowest record of car-to-car contact of any I know.”

“Racing with buddies is fun,” Adam adds. “Fixing broken race cars is not. This racing is zero-contact, and we expect perfection.”

Renee Hines and Scott Giles, along with several others, help with the zero-contact initiative by coaching drivers, investigating and reviewing issues, and working to build trust and perfection in every race. The Gridlife team uses its communal mindset to drive a motorsports culture of respect and clean driving. 

“We have the luxury of being able to build a community culture,” Adam adds. “A large portion of the field knows each other and travels the country with us, doing between four and nine events per year.”

Adam Jabaay, pointing toward the camera, helped get GLTC from brainstorm to green flag. Tiffany Anne Kelly, in the red-and-gray Honda S2000, is one of the program’s fans.

No contact doesn’t mean relaxed racing, though. Tiffany Anne Kelly says that the GLTC series will humble any driver who joins it: “I thought I was at the top of my game when I joined GLTC, and it wasn’t until I raced with some of the most talented drivers I have ever competed against that I realized I have so much to learn. 

“GLTC motivates me to be the best driver I can be,” she adds. “I hope other drivers can get the opportunity to join a series like this and experience the fire it ignites to do better and never stop racing.”

Licensed club and pro racers from other groups are welcome to race, but a significant portion of Gridlife’s GLTC drivers have little outside experience. New competitors often come through Gridlife’s HPDE or Time Attack programs. Some previously ran a few budget enduros and found the series while seeking a sprint race environment that would accept their car. 

“You aren’t immediately let onto the track to battle door to door, though,” Adam cautions. “We have a competition school and evaluation inside of almost every event–at no additional cost and with no loss of track time.” 

GLTC driver development coach Scott Giles has led that program, and every driver gets coaching catered to their experience level. They receive instruction in the classroom plus more during the event. Sometimes Adam goes out to see how drivers react to some pressure–one of his favorite things, he admits. “Our method has been quite successful in dropping the barrier to entry while helping build the quality of driving into something we are proud of,” he notes. 

May Be Habit Forming

The GLTC Series’ action-packed super sprint races have become a focal point for spectators, in person and online–check YouTube for broadcasts. 

They’ve also become a competitor favorite. It only took one race for Tiffany to get hooked. “I have been racing for many years with several different sanctions, and it wasn’t until my first GLTC race that I knew I found where I belong,” she says. “The camaraderie, competition and passion in the wheel-to-wheel series are more genuine than any other series I have raced. The series does such a great job of not letting rules and politics ruin the fun or take away the joy of racing.”

Nighttime racing, too? Sure, why not?

Tom adds that the Touring Cup series nicely balances aspects of both pro and club racing. “Club racing is about a low enough barrier of entry for the masses and takes everyone into consideration when it comes to the experience–whether you’re racing at the front or the back,” he explains. “Pro racing, on the other hand, heavily emphasizes exposure and entertainment and the business aspects of motorsports. The participant is left on their own to mind their p’s and q’s, and the experience is what you make it. GLTC balances these perfectly: It’s a blast whether you’re at the front or the back of the pack, the emphasis of community fun is high, and the barrier of entry is low.”

“I love how it has become my favorite place to be, on and off track,” Adam adds. “The group of drivers is the best and most diverse that I’ve ever raced with, and they are my favorite people to stand around a broken car with after the track goes cold. Even if I didn’t work these events, I still wouldn’t miss a single one. The entire Gridlife community is filled with amazing drivers and attendees, and it’s a wonderful paddock to be in.”

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View comments on the GRM forums
GM > MG New Reader
8/21/21 12:05 p.m.

That seems like a very interesting style of racing.

Something I would consider, but its only in the Mid-West NO?

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